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What is Baptism Anyway?

by | Thu, Jul 30 2020

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woman and baby getting baptised

In Matthew 28:19 NKJV, Jesus says “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”That command has inspired a lot of debate throughout the history of the Church around what counts as baptism, when it should be carried out, and even what baptism means.

In a recent guest appearance on Vision’s 20Twenty, Dr Brendan Roach offered some simple explanation of what the Bible really says about baptism, and how he sees it. Roach is the founder of Axx, which offers Bible teaching for those who couldn’t usually access it. Keep reading for clear insight into the history and future of baptism, or listen to the podcast below.

According to Roach, baptism symbolises three things:
1. An important step in your personal discipleship journey
2. A public declaration of faith.
3. A sense of belonging in a community of disciples.

Paul also explains that baptism is a metaphor for Christ’s death and resurrection. Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4 NKJV)

“In the metaphor,” Roach says, “we are one with Jesus. We are dying for our sin. Our old life is buried and gone, and we’re resurrected as a new creation in Christ.”

For Roach, baptising someone is even more exciting than seeing them come to Christ at the alter call. For him, it’s a deeper commitment. “I am now going to be a disciple of Jesus, not just a believer of what Jesus said, but I’m going to be a disciple, and I’m going to follow the teachings of Jesus. To me, it is the most brilliant thing we do in the Church.”

In an early mission trip to China, Roach baptised people in a hotel bathtub. More recently, running a church out of a Village Cinema, he’s brought in an inflatable pool to conduct baptisms. “It doesn’t matter where,” he said. “It just matters that you’re doing it.”

While there should always be a sense of reverence around baptism, Roach says it can also be joyful and fun. “It’s not hype. It’s a spiritual encounter with God. Not everybody has it at that exact moment, but I’ve seen so many people come up out of the water with the Holy Spirit on them and exhilaration all over their face.”

If we had a mass revival in Australia, he even imagined baptising people at Wet’n’Wild. “If that’s what works for you, then great. I think we just need to be aware that at the essence of this, this is a spiritual activity. We’re not actually in a swimming pool, just mucking around having fun.”

One of the more controversial arguments in the Church is about whether sprinkling is a valid form of baptism. The answer, Roach believes, comes from the very beginnings of the Church. “The Church was born in Israel, and then expanded throughout the Mediterranean, and what we would understand as Iraq, and Iran, and North Africa today.”

“A lot of those regions were desert regions. There wasn’t a lot of water. So by the late 300s, water was a significant issue, so to do a full emersion baptism was not practical when you’ve got limited water supply.”

The Church created a new method of baptism, called effusion, or pouring over, in order to get around the problem. “It came about as a very simple practical thing, that then got locked into tradition. So I think what we call the sprinkling, to me, it’s ok, but if you’ve got the option for full emersion, I would say absolutely do that.”

“That’s the way that Jesus was baptised. That’s the way the disciples were baptised. That’s the way everybody was baptised for the first 300 years of the Church. If I can do it the way the Bible teaches, I’ll do it that way. If there’s a legitimate reason not to, then ok, we can look at that, and work our way around it.”

Axx has created a free online course called “Am I Ready for Baptism”, which you can access at Listen to the podcast below for more from Dr Roach about how you’ll know when the time is right, as well as his thoughts on whether or not infants should be baptised.

Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.

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Images via Shutterstock.